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Zinnia Gonzalez-Carranza

Assistant Professor in Plant Sciences, Faculty of Science

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Biography

Lecturer in Plant Sciences

Zinnia's research fall into three areas: study and uses of the native Mexican specie Mezquite, plant development; and abscission & cell separation. Her current research areas include:

1) Utilizing Mezquite, a native plant from Mexico to improve quality of life of less advantaged groups in Mexico, and in other developing countries.

2) the role of the F-box protein HAWAIIAN SKIRT (HWS) in plant development via the ubiquitination pathway.

3) microRNA biogenesis in plants

4) Investigating the role of the HWS orthologe genes in rice and corn.

5) Study of flower abscission in Arabidopsis

Keywords: Mezquite, Abscission, cell separation, F-box proteins, ubiquitination, microRNAs.

Expertise Summary

My most recent project is the Mezquite project. This project's long-term ambition is to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of less advantaged groups in Mexico, and in other developing countries, by promoting economic development, and improving local research capability and innovation, through the sustainable, holistic production and use of the evergreen leguminous tree, mezquite (Prosopis sp).

A multidisciplinary, multi sectorial and international group of more than 50 stakeholders is working together to identify solutions to problems exposed by rural and indigenous communities in Mexico in January 2019.The group include scientists from several disciplines, including anthropology, archeology, food science, nutrition, botany, engineering, plant sciences, business, among others. Members of the government, tourism, NGOs from Mexico, are all part of this group. Other countries involved in the project include Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Somaliland.

We are developing solutions to the problems shared by communities through research and impact activities.

During previous postdoctoral roles, I was able to map successfully the HAWAIIAN SKIRT gene - the mutant does not shed its floral parts because the sepal bases remain fused during development. We are in the process of identifying the putative target(s) for degradation from this gene. I also exploited the use of a transgenic line that I had generated expressing the reporter GFP specifically in abscission zone cells. Using this ProPGAZAT:GFP line I was able to identify and collect abscission zone cells separating in vivo, and I developed a methodology to generate the first single cell cDNA, yeast one-hybrid and yeast two-hybrid libraries from this material. I have used the cDNA library to produce the first complete transcript profile from abscission zone cells and this has revealed expression of genes whose site of transcription was previously undocumented. Currently I am involved in the characterization of seven genes identified with this strategy.

My collaborations include Dr. Janny Peters in Nijmegen, (Netherlands); Prof. Mohammed Bendahmane from ENS in Lyon, France, Prof. Xuebin Zhangfrom Henan University, China, Dr. Rita Borna from University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. In Mexico: Dr. Julio Rios form INIFAP, Mexico; Dr. Nuria Rocha Guzman, Dr. Ruben Laredo, Dr. Alberto Gallegos and Dr Rocio Moreno, ITD. Dr Marcos Garzon, Dr. Juan Manuel Vigueras, Dr. Socorro Gonzalez, Dr. Erika Cassio, MSc. Arturo Castro, Dr. Martha Rosales from CIIDR, Dr. Yolanda Lopez from CIAD, MSc. Xochitl Soto, ME Karina Fernandez and MSc. Martha Ruiz from USLRC, ME Olivia Bringas from Land and Tourism, Dr Everardo Garduno from UBC, Dr Araceli Rivera and Dr Juan Antonio Cerda from INAH. In Kenya: Dr Oscar Koech, in Tanzania: Dr Charles Kilawe, Prof George Kajembe and Dr. Antonio Allegretti.

I also performed promoter deletion analyses from abscission related gene and identified a putative abscission-related domain. My work also broadened the focus of the programme of research by introducing a bioinformatics approach to identify other polygalacturonase genes that might make an important contribution to cell separation.

I am working in the characterization of two ubiquitin-like genes from the Arabidopsis model species.

Teaching Summary

I convene the modules:

BIOS1002: Applied Genetics,

BIOS3014: Plants and the Light Environment.

BIOS4119: Pre-project -MSc Biotechnology, Plant Specialist Option.

I teach 12 core lectures and four practical sessions (based in a crime scenario!) and three plant specialist option lectures in the module Applied Genetics (BIOS1002).

I teach 8 lectures in the module for Plants and the Light Environment (BIOS3014). In this module we have a scientific debate that students enjoy a lot. The students have a terrific presentation where their creativity is encouraged. We have had rappers, scientists, pantomimes, a criminal jury.... and many other expressive manners to defend our arguments!

In the Pre-project module (BIOS4119) I help students to prepare for their MSc research project. During this module the students learn skills to critically discuss research papers, write scientific abstracts, conduct literature reviews and develop their presentation skills.

In addition to these modules, I deliver the plant practical sessions for the Global Food Security Module (BIOS1014), contribute to the Plant Sciences Research Tutorials (BIOS1017) where I discuss my research with year one students studying plant sciences.

Research Summary

THE MEZQUITE PROJECT:

The mission of the project for the sustainable and holistic use of mezquite is to improve the quality of life and well-being of rural and indigenous communities both in Mexico and in other developing countries where mezquite grows. Further, to promote economic development and improve research and innovation capacity. This project also seeks to recover, preserve, promote and validate knowledge about mezquite for the benefit of society.

As part of our Mezquite project we generated a compendium of mezquite uses. The compendium is accessible to communities in the Mezquite Project website . Hard copies have be printed to reach these that do not have access to internet. With the above, Mezquite project seeks to contribute to the sustainable development of families and communities in vulnerable situations that inhabit the various regions of the world where mezquite is produced, in addition to preserving and sustainably using the species.

For more information about Mezquite project see our video, visit our twitter and facebook accounts at: @GCRF_Mezquite and @MezquiteProject.

The report for our GCRF project is avialable in the website.

THE HAWAIIAN SKIRT PROJECT:

HAWAIIAN SKIRT is a gene which encodes an F-box protein, involved in protein degradation during flower development. We are currently investigating the role of this gene in plant development and responses to stress.

We are also investigating the roles from two ubiquitin like genes in the model species Arabidopsis by generation of Knock out lines, overexpressors lines, doubles and triple knock outs and the interaction of these genes through the use of a Yeast two hybrid screening methodology.

THE ABSCISSION PROJECT:

The characterization of some of the genes identified in my past research (we identidified around 200 genes of interest and up to date 7 genes studied from the library are abscission related) is on-going. The research tools generated are in use within the Plant Sciences Division at Nottingham and by other plant scientists around the world.

RECENT RESEARCH AWARDS:

2021-2022, Arid ethno-forestry food systems: a wellbeing alternative for communities living in drylands of the world. GCRF-AHRC, PI, £200,00

2020-2021, A Means to Improving Sustainable Social, Cultural and Economic Welfare in Arid and Semi-arid Zones of Sinaloa Mexico. Newton Fund Institutional Links Grant, PI, £100,000

2019-2021, Studying the Use of Mezquite To Improve Welfare of Communities in Arid and Semi-Arid Zones of the World. GCRF-Research England provided to the University of Nottingham, PI, £250,000

2020, Follow on funding imapct activities. GCRF-Research England provided to the University of Nottingham, PI, £10,000

2018-2019, Sustainable and Holistic Use of Mezquite to Improve Quality of Life in Developing Countries, GCRF-Research England provided to the University of Nottingham, PI, £31,032

2019, Investigating Anti-Carcinogenic Properties of Mezquite, PI, £14,122

2017, Research Accelerator Award, School of Biosciences, PI, £8,000.00

Selected Publications

I had supervised 19 PhD students, 7 MSc students, and 11 Bsc students.

I edited a book and contributed to 6 book chapters.

I am an associate to the Higher Education Academy since 2009.

Past Research

During my PhD I isolated and characterised a Polygalacturonase expressed during leaf abscission in Brassica napus, and I identified the orthologue gene in Arabidopsis thaliana.

During the 3 years of my first postdoctoral post, I exploited the information generated from my PhD work and using a 'crop to model species' strategy allowed me to undertake promoter deletion analyses and identify a putative abscission-related domain. It also enabled me to develop the tools and methodologies, including the molecular tagging of abscission zone cells, that have proved to be the foundation for the successful submission of a further project to BBSRC. My work also broadened the focus of the programme of research by introducing a bioinformatics approach to identify other polygalacturonases genes that might make an important contribution to cell separation (see publication list for references).

During my last postdoctoral post I was able to map successfully the HAWAIIAN SKIRT gene - the mutant does not shed its floral parts because the sepal bases remain fused during development. The gene encodes an F-box protein. During the course of the project I also exploited the use of a transgenic line that I had generated expressing the reporter GFP specifically in abscission zone cells. Using this PGAZAT::GFP line I was able to identify and collect abscission zone cells separating in vivo, and I developed a methodology to generate the first single cell cDNA, yeast one-hybrid and yeast two-hybrid libraries from this material. I have used the cDNA library to produce the first complete transcript profile from abscission zone cells and this has revealed expression of genes whose site of transcription was previously undocumented.

Future Research

We will continue generating research and impact in Mexico and other countries where Mezquite grows.

We will advance in our knowledge in the areas of flower development, abscisison and other cell separation processes in plants.

School of Biosciences

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